Real Greatness

“You shall guide me with your counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory…”
Psalm 73:24

There are many ways to measure greatness but the Christian way of measuring greatness is not even used by many Christians. Some believers think that someone like the evangelist Billy Graham is a great man. No one doubts the man’s personal godliness. In an age when TV evangelists have publicly disgraced themselves Billy Graham stands out from the crowd. Certainly he has preached to countless millions that Jesus is the Saviour. Yes, there is a way in which Billy Graham is a great man.

But how does the Lord measure greatness? What is important in God’s sight? The context of our verses today tell us the answer. Jesus had recently taken Peter, James and John to the Mount of Transfiguration and allowed them to have that remarkable experience of hearing Him talk with Moses and Elijah about the coming cross.

As our Lord and the disciples journeyed from the Mount of Transfiguration back to Capernaum He continued to teach them about the necessity of the cross (Mark 9:31-32). On that journey, when they had opportunity, the disciple argued among themselves concerning which of them would be counted the greatest (Mark 9:34).

The disciples had missed the point that before there is a crown there must be a cross. There can only be an Easter Sunday after Good Friday. Scripture teaches that we must not measure greatness by how many people serve us but by how many people we serve. The one who would be considered great is the one who serves others the most.

Mark 12:41-43 tells the story of a poor widow who gave the last two bits of her money into the temple treasury. As Jesus and the disciples stood by watching, the Lord told them that the destitute woman had given more than all of the rich people put together.

The Lord does not measure our giving by how much we give but by how much we keep for ourselves. The Lord does not call us to do great things as the world measures greatness. All the Lord expects from any of us is faithfulness. So the poorest, least gifted among us may some day be reckoned the greatest simply because of faithfulness to what God gave them to do.

Cease from your anxious thoughts concerning how little you may have accomplished for the Saviour. Do well what you do in His name. Occupy yourself with what the Lord has given you to do and do not be concerned to do greater, more public things. Pride can cause us to wish to be noticed by others in our area of service. As long as the Master sees us it should be enough. Satisfy yourself that your Father’s loving eye is always on you. Then you will be great in God’s eyes.

The Road Less Travelled

“You shall guide me with your counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory…”
Psalm 73:24

Robert Frost (1874-1963), an American poet, published a poem with the title, The Road Not Taken, in 1916. It talks about him coming to a cross roads and examining both before choosing one. In the closing lines of the poem he states that by choosing one over the other it has made all the difference in his journey through life.

Major decisions in life seem to come to us very early in our journey and when we are least qualified to make those decisions. I am speaking of career choices, marriage partner, educational alternatives and so on. More than a few people, later in life, look back in time and regret their decision about this life changing matter or that.

We sometimes say, “Oh, if only I could go back with the wisdom and knowledge of today, I would have done things in a different manner. Certain people’s lives are filled with regrets.

Asaph, the man who wrote Psalm 73, found himself in just such a position at a certain point in his life journey. He had been a devoted follower of the Lord. Everything that could go wrong in his life did go wrong. He experienced poverty and sorrow of other sorts. Then, when he looked at the rich and happy part of society he also observed that they were godless.

The conclusion he came to was that it did not pay to serve the Lord. His expression in Psalm 73:13 (NIV) is,

“Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure…” 

His mind was filled with doubts and he struggled to find any reason to serve the Lord.

How do you come to the side of such a person and speak comfort? What can you say that will ease the pain of their tragic lives? Another look at the writer of Psalm 73 gives us a clue about how to steady their faltering steps.

The entire Psalm hinges on verse 17 (NIV) which reads,

“…till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.”

In verses 15-16 he confessed that he could not tell anyone about his dark conclusion that it did not pay to serve the Lord. He also wrote that his mind was drowning in confusion and pain.

Then one day, when he went into the house of God to worship, everything came into focus. It was in “church” where he found his mind filled with information that corrected his view on life.

Many good Christian people will tell you that it was in church that the Lord spoke to them in clear, unmistakable terms about life and the future. Sometimes it was a comment in the preacher’s sermon, a prayer offered, or a hymn sung. There are numerous “means of grace” or channels of blessing that the Lord uses when His people gather to worship and sing His praise.

Today, if you find yourself in a dark time of life, I urge you to keep attending the house of the Lord. Mingle with His people and you may find that the voice of the Lord will be heard in your heart. Turn back to the house of God where the Bible is preached, where people sing the praise of the Lord, where they pray and believe God hears and answers prayer. There you too shall find the comfort and answers to your deepest questions about life and your problems.

God and Creation

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you –
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all har—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 (NIV)

Sometimes we simply need to read a beautiful portion of Scripture and let its powerful message grip our hearts.

Today’s Psalm is such a Scripture.

Please imagine the glory of the Rocky mountains so majestic, beautiful, and stable. Creation does indeed declare the glory of God.

Ponder how the mountains reflect the wonders of our great God and fall in love with Him all over again.

Here come the Babylonians

“I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.”
Habakkuk 1:6 (NIV)

Habakkuk had been puzzled by the silence of God to his prayers. He desired the Lord to come and establish righteousness on the earth. His heart’s desire was for the people of God to turn from sin and follow the way of the Lord.

However, his prayers had not been answered. It did not matter, it seemed, that he had sought the Lord earnestly and patiently for this blessing. He had prayed in the manner he knew best, yet silence was all that he received for his efforts.

Then when the Lord spoke it was a startling message to His faithful servant. The message was not what the holy man desired to hear. In fact he was confused by the response of the Lord to his prayers.

What the Lord said to Habakkuk in response to his petitions was the worst possible answer. Habakkuk was told that the situation was to become much worse before it got better.

That was not all. God said that He was going to use a wicked nation called the Babylonians to swoop down on His sinful people in punishment for perverting His moral law.

So things would get even more difficult—at least for a time. Such is the strange providence of the Lord. Like Habakkuk we come to the Lord crying out to Him to intervene for good in a time of evil. We pray for righteousness to reign in our land.

But what happens as we point out to the Lord just how evil western society has become? We look around and things get worse instead of better. The last two generations in the western world have been spiraling downward to more and more sin.

Criminals in our prisons can receive a university education while they receive free room and board and health care behind bars. Many law abiding citizens cannot afford higher education or else go far into debt to get what prisoners receive free. The taxes of hard working people pay for the privileges of prisoners. Is there not something wrong with this picture?

However, even in these times when we do not understand what the Lord is doing, we ought to press forward obeying what the Lord has commanded. We are to live as though life makes sense when life appears to be senseless.

As a child of God you may have no understanding of the mysterious providence of your God. Yet you may learn to say with Job (Job 23:10 NIV),

“But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

If the Lord knows your situation it is enough. Trust in Him and at last you will understand the way of the Lord and you shall give full approval to His providence.

A Sight Beyond Description

“…they shall see God”
Matthew 5:8

I have had the privilege of visiting only a few countries during my life time. I timed a visit to Scotland to be there in late August to witness the amazing sight of the heather on the west highlands. The white cliffs of Dover in England are spectacular. Even in my own country of Canada, it is wonderful to see the western Rocky mountains, the lakes and rivers with beautiful turquoise glacial water, or the enormous icebergs floating off the coast of Newfoundland and other natural wonders of creation.

How amazing it is for us to have eye sight and witness a sunrise or sunset as the sky blazes with reds, oranges and other colours. Those who have looked through a telescope at the beauties of space, the incredible galaxies with various colours have seen the awesome power, artistry and engineering beauty of our Creator.

So examining the wonders of creation causes us to try and imagine how spectacular the sight of the Creator must be. We know, from reading the story of Moses in the Old Testament, that God informed Moses that he would die if he was to see God. The closest we can come to seeing God—this side of eternity—is to read about Jesus in the Gospels.

Jesus’ life, as recorded in the New Testament, shows us a Man Who was more than a man. Jesus went about claiming to be God in various ways. He took the names for Jehovah for Himself. In Psalm 23 David claimed that Jehovah was his Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd of His people.

The Old Testament teaches that God is the One Who forgives sin (Psalm 51). Yet Jesus claimed authority to forgive sin (Mark 2:5). In the Old Testament Jehovah (Isaiah 45:6-8) claimed to be in charge of creation. Then in the New Testament (Matthew 8:27) we read that Jesus controlled the winds and the waves.

On it goes with the evidence that our Lord Jesus was God in human form. So, through the record of Jesus’ life, we have glimpses of what God is like. Jesus was patient, kind to all, gentle, loving, sovereign. So, when Jesus invited the apostles to look at Him and see the Father, He made a remarkable claim for Himself that was true to His life’s record.

Yet, for all that, there is a vision of Jesus yet to come that will be incredible beyond all description for those who love Him.

The day is coming when Jesus shall reveal Himself to all humanity. There will be a mixed reaction among people when this day occurs. Some people will be frightened and call for the hills and mountains to hide them from the sight (Revelation 6:16). They will be full of fear when they see the One they have rejected all their lives.

The rest of humanity will rejoice and be glad. This group are the people who trusted in Jesus and confessed Him as their resurrected Lord and Saviour. May you be one of those who look for the blessed hope of our Lord’s return. That glorious sight shall quickly chase away all of our sorrows connected with this life.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)